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Paul John’s Festive New Single Malt Actually Tastes Like Christmas

Can a whiskey taste like Christmas? What would that mean, anyway—pine needles, peppermint, reindeer dung and cheer? Indian distillery Paul John’s new 2022 Christmas Edition single malt tastes like none of that, thankfully, but it does actually sip like a holiday whisky—which is an impressive feat.

A little background on the distillery first—Paul John is located in Goa on India’s west coast, and is one of the better known brands in the rising tide of Indian single malt whisky. The climate there is tropical and humid, meaning the whisky matures faster. To be precise, that means the liquid interacts with the barrels more kinetically than in a cooler, milder climate like Scotland or Ireland, but more so than in Kentucky which cools down quite a bit in the winter. The whisky is distilled from six-row barley and matured onsite, with a high angel’s share of eight to ten percent as opposed to Kentucky’s four or five percent. There are many different expressions available from Paul John to try, and this is the fifth installment of the Christmas Edition.

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So aside from a festive-themed canister adorned with wreaths and stockings, how does a distillery make a Christmas whisky? Paul John blended three different liquids together—six-year-old whisky aged in ex-bourbon barrels, four-year-old whisky aged in bourbon barrels that was finished for two years in Paul John XO French oak brandy casks, and five-year-old whisky aged in bourbon barrels that once held peated whiskey which was then finished in Oloroso sherry casks for an additional 18 months. That’s a complicated formula, but the holidays are a complicated season, especially when your estranged conspiracy theory-spouting uncle is visiting. The whisky was bottled at an uncomplicated 46 percent ABV.

It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and envision this as having Christmasy flavors because of the packaging, marketing and power of suggestion. That being said, check out these tasting notes (and hopefully the actual whisky) and see what you think. The nose starts out with figgy, malty aromas, along with some fresh wood and a bit of licorice. There’s also a whiff of fireplace smoke in the background, perhaps from that whisper of peat. On the palate, there’s fruit cake (in a good way), cinnamon, raisin and—stick with me here—a tiny hint of candy cane peppermint. On the finish, there’s some dark syrupy berries, caramel, and a soupçon of savory jus. That’s Christmas apps, dinner and dessert all in one sip.

I’m still waiting for a Hanukkah Edition whisky (it doesn’t necessarily have to be from Paul John), one that truly captures the flavor of brisket, latkes and kugel. Until then, I’d be happy to enjoy this new whisky on Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, St. Patrick’s Day or Flag Day, because it’s a tasty and complex single malt whenever you choose to drink it, and a stellar example of the Indian single malt category.

Score: 88

What Our Score Means

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for

  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet

  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram

  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market

  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable

  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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